LIVE FROM TM FORUM DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION WORLD, NICE, FRANCE: Operators must be willing to take more risks, think more creatively and “unlearn” the ways of the past if they are to successfully implement a digital transformation strategy that will support future business models, industry executives explained in the keynote session today (15 May).
On day two of the TM Forum’s Digital Transformation World event, Verizon CIO Shankar Arumugavelu argued a big part of the process is understanding that what made an operator successful in the past will not work in future, requiring a fundamental change in business culture.
“A big part is unlearning some things,” he said, noting digital transformation also only works when it is implemented in both a top-down and bottom-up way throughout the organisation. He also advised not being too prescriptive with engineers, instead giving them the freedom and power to innovate.
Nik Willetts, CEO of the TM Forum (pictured), expressed a similar sentiment, noting operators cannot achieve success with digital if they hang on to a 20th century way of working.
Meanwhile, like many of his industry peers, Enrique Blanco, global chief technology and information officer at Telefonica, placed a strong emphasis on the need for collaboration across the industry with all types of players to create a true digital experience for customers. For example, he pointed to the increasing requirement for technology personnel to work with the commercial side of the business.
Andrew Feinberg, CEO of Netcracker, also conceded that the traditional vendor approach no longer works and companies like his have to act more in a partnership with operators: “Having said that, there is also no one size fits all transformation,” he added, noting the implementation of an operator’s digital strategy is the biggest, and most difficult, part of the process.
In a separate panel, the CIOs and CTOs at four different operators also highlighted what they believed were the biggest changes affecting their roles today.
Harmeen Mehta, global CIO at Bharti Airtel (who took part in the session remotely), commented the CIO now has to act more like a business partner: “The pressure on us to perform and deliver has never been greater,” she said.
“The era of the generalist is dead,” Mehta said. “We are in the era of specialism”, where there is no fear of failure and the focus is on getting things done.
Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at Telus, noted that the most important training he gives his team today is on business cases and RoI: “It’s critical we work with vendors as partners,” he said, adding that the idea is to create a collaborative and fair process within the business.
Orange CIO Thierry Souche believes information chiefs should enforce some control over what is introduced, but agreed the main focus today is on collaboration. Souche went so far as to describe himself as more like a godfather than a boss to the CIOs within the individual Orange businesses, as it is his role to ensure they act in a coordinated way to benefit the entire Orange community.
The biggest change Liberty Global CIO Veenod Kurup has seen is the business is now looking to his team to provide the technology first before deciding what they will do with it on a commercial level: “We are not used to having to lead in that way,” he said, noting that different sets of skills are now required, such as knowing what would be relevant to customers.
His advice, though, was to be the agent of change, not to expect others to change first: “That will be powerful.”
Rate of change
Willetts said his discussions with executives throughout the industry revealed there is a fair amount of frustration among operator chiefs over the pace of digital transformation.
“The question I often get is: is it worth it?” he said. “Absolutely it’s worth it. There is over $1 trillion to be unlocked for this industry in the next decade.”
The TM Forum also aims to be the central support structure for operators as they attempt to implement their digital transformation strategies: “We have a vision for an open, digital world,” Willetts said.
– Anne Morris, contributing reporter, Mobile World Live